After selecting a strong squad for Sunday’s pre-season game against York City Knights at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle Castleford Tigers boss Daryl Powell is looking for his players to step up on their Boxing Day display against Halifax, writes Tony Harber.
Seven of the Tigers’ new signings are set to play in the 1pm kick-off, including half-back Brett Seymour and utility player Frankie Mariano, who both missed the draw with Halifax. And fans favourite Justin Carney will also play his first game since a shoulder injury sidelined him at the end of last season.
“I see this as our first pre-season game,” Powell told the Express.
“Christmas is always a difficult time and I thought we were pretty poor in the Halifax game even if some of it is understandable.
“But I have to say that I think the players have stepped up massively since Christmas. There’s been a huge lift in attitude and commitment.
“It was a little bit of a kick up the backside on Boxing Day and we are looking to step up.
“There’s some good challenges for us in pre-season. I went to watch Featherstone last weekend and they were good and York have got some good players who will really test us. But I’m really interested in us and how we go about things. That’s massive for me in every game that our attitude is right and that we have a commitment to defend.
“We are also looking to put some of the sharpness we are starting to build in our attacking play into place.
“We’ve been doing some great things in practice. We need to carry that on now when faced with the real thing in games. This is where we need to step up and I’m really looking forward to Sunday.”
Powell explained the reasoning behind fielding a strong team against York.
He said: “One of the things we have got this year is a deeper squad and everybody needs to get an opportunity to play.
“There’s no under 20s this year so you are picking your first team squad in every pre-season game.
“There’s some people there who are obviously wanting to put their hands up and say ‘I should be in there in the first team selected against Bradford’. That’s great, I think it augurs well for our season that we are able to put a really strong squad out whilst there are quite a lot of players not in who will play the week after against Featherstone or who are injured at the moment.”
Powell is pleased to have Australian star Carney back out on the field and is also looking forward to seeing how his fellow countryman, Seymour, goes on his debut along with several youngsters who will be given a chance.
He added: “Justin Carney has been training well. He had that injury at the back end of last season, but he’s doing well in practice and looking sharp and strong. He’s going to have a run in the centres at the weekend and it will be great to see him play there.
“Brett Seymour will play on Sunday and it’s a good opportunity for him to get his first game with Castleford under his belt. He’s worked hard, particularly since Christmas, and he’s looked a lot more fluent in his game since then. This gives him an opportunity to prove to everybody that he can go well for Castleford.
“Frankie Mariano was going to play at Christmas, but injured his back so he has a good opportunity to show what he can do.
“I’m hopeful I can give some of the young boys an opportunity at the weekend, people like Will Maher, Brad Day and Jordan Howden. I want to get them some game time on the field and give them an opportunity to show how they can compete against men.”